Something has felt amiss in the Big 12 for a while now. I think it’s goes back to the massive realignment phase hit college sports a few years back and losing Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M while gaining TCU and West Virginia.
That’s not a fair trade.
So while people around the Big 12 – and especially those associated with TCU and Baylor – are gripping and griping about the conference’s two 11-1 teams being left out of the College Football Playoff, they would be better served to figure out what went wrong.
We can argue for days about whether Ohio State is a better football team than TCU or Baylor. Really, who knows? But with the criteria available to the committee that picked the four teams to complete in the CFP, the Buckeyes were a logical pick for the fourth spot.
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Personally, I would have gone with TCU, even though it lost to Baylor in the regular season. But the Horned Frogs . . . wait, I’m not going to get caught up in that endless debate. The four teams have been chosen and we’re headed for a great New Year’s Day of college football with Oregon and Florida State meeting in the Rose Bowl and Alabama taking on Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
Who doesn’t love that? Especially considering there are three other bowls – including Baylor vs. Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl – to prepare us for the main event.
Baylor, of course, feels like it should be in the main event. So does TCU, which will play Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. And the Big 12’s feelings are rightly hurt. This is the conference, after all, that houses Oklahoma and Texas, behemoths of the sport.
And if it were Oklahoma and Texas being snubbed with 11-1 records, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby would probably be sending his minions to protest on the lawns of the CFP committee members.
But the Sooners and Longhorns weren’t very good this season. Neither was Oklahoma State or West Virginia. Kansas and Iowa State were awful. Texas Tech was pretty bad, too. Kansas State was good, but the Wildcats got thumped by both Baylor and TCU on the road.
So while those of us in Big 12 country are scratching our heads, the simple yet disappointing truth is that the conference doesn’t have the clout it once had.
For one thing, it’s not really a “Big 12.” There are only 10 teams. Not 12. Does that bug anyone else but me?
Second, there seemed to be no real strategy as to how best go about expanding the Big 12 in the wake of contraction.
West Virginia is a geographical misfit in the Big 12 and unless there is a huge shift in North America’s tectonic plates, that’s always going to be the case.
TCU has a strong football program with plenty of resources and fits into the Big 12’s Texas footprint.
But losing Colorado to the Pac-12, Nebraska to the Big Ten and Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC was a blow. A serious blow and I’m not sure the Big 12 reacted reasonably in replacing those schools.
Ten schools, obviously, is outside the model that the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC uses. But going off all willy-nilly to expand to 12 or more schools now could turn out to be a disaster. Look at the Big Ten with Rutgers and Maryland.
It’s a shame, I believe, that the Big 12 didn’t bring in Louisville and Cincinnati, schools with strong football – and basketball – programs. Remember basketball? Yeah, it used to be important. Still is for some.
The Big 12 thought that not having a conference championship game in football could be an advantage. Then it turned into a huge disadvantage because of Sunday’s CFP announcement. Can the Big 12 have a title game with 10 teams? Does it even want one?
The good news from all of this is that perhaps football teams in the Big 12 – I’m looking at you, Baylor – will up the ante when it comes to scheduling. The Bears played one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country in 2014 (SMU, Northwestern State, Buffalo).
Next season, Baylor plays patsies SMU, Lamar and Rice. Kansas State’s 2015 non-conference schedule, by the way, includes South Dakota, UTSA and Louisiana Tech.
It’s hard to get to college football’s Promised Land when you’re content to travel down Easy Street.
So, Big 12, there are lessons to be learned.
One, you dropped the ball during the realignment era. And it might be too late to fix it now.
Two, there are some issues with the playoff system and the way we got to the four teams, but the Ohio State, TCU and Baylor debate has no end. The committee went with the Buckeyes. That’s that.
And, finally, the Big 12 has to be cognizant of its current place in college football’s solar system. When Texas and Oklahoma are mediocre, the conference is mediocre. OU and TU are the power brokers and it can be argued that those heavyweights, and the enormous influence they wield, is a reason Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M bolted.
This is your world now, Big 12.